Why is it that we find Matisyahu and other tzadikim in the older generations carried swords and today a Rosh Yeshiva would never think about owning a weapon?
The truth is that not only roshei yeshiva but even bums shouldn’t carry weapons today. Because it’s not necessary. Unless you’re going to go at night through Bedford Stuyvesant, or take a walk through Harlem; but then a sword wouldn’t help you anyway. You’d have to have a shotgun. Or an armored car. Because they also have shotguns, so what will your shotgun help you?
Besides, Matisyahu wasn’t in the habit of carrying a sword. Only that he knew what was going to happen that day, so he put a sword under his cloak. But in general it doesn’t pay to carry weapons today at all. If you’re a man of peace and you’re not armed, you’re more likely to survive. Once you pull a knife, then you cannot tell what the other party will do. He’ll get desperate and who knows what he’ll do!
That’s also why I don’t approve of learning karate for self-defense purposes. What good is it you know the ways and means of tackling an opponent if the opponent will be standing behind a door ready to jump you as you pass by? And these bums won’t play by the rules of karate. They hurl knives. Some of them have learned how to hurl knives from a distance. And the knife reaches the victim with the point first. They hurl knives and they shoot guns. So what is it going to help if you learn karate? Karate won’t help against the bullet.
So the best karate is to stay home. Don’t go out at night. And if you’re stuck and you’re confronted by bums, the best self-defense is to just keep quiet and empty out your pockets and give them everything. That’s the best karate.
I always say over the Chinese proverb, “The biggest hero is the one who survives. The one who runs away, that’s the hero.”
TAPE # 391 (December 1981)